Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Location: Colorado, USA
|Posted: Thu Jan 13, 2005 7:30 pm
New Year's Letter from Zugg (plans for 2005)
Happy New Year!
It's traditional for me to review the past year at Zugg Software and give you a preview of what's coming for the next year. So, let's first look back on 2004:
Zugg Software in 2004
Last year I announced the beginning of what I called the "ZuggMail" project. This project is now called "eMobius" and has several parts that I'll discuss later.
The main goal last year was to finish the 7.0 public version of zMUD and to start the eMobius project. zMUD 7.05 was released in April, 2004, and represents the most stable version of zMUD ever produced. zMUD 7.05 raised the bar on MUD clients and remains the fastest and most versatile MUD client available.
Work on eMobius proved to be more time consuming than planned. It became clear during the initial development that eMobius was going to be something special and needed some new development tools. I split the eMobius project into two parts: the zApp Development Environment that could be used to create user-customizable software, and the eMobius email and communications client that would be implemented using zApp.
The first version of zApp was released in June, 2004, with the first Beta version released in November, 2004. This Beta version of zApp is currently being marketed to various sites around the Internet. It is a stable version of a powerful new development environment. It's not clear whether the world is ready for zApp yet. Most Developers really don't know what "user customizable software" actually is. But zApp represents a whole new way to develop applications where the Developer's intellectual property can be protected, while allowing end-users to completely customize or modify the software, or 3rd parties to easily produce plugins using a consistent framework.
The actual eMobius email and communications client only exists so far as a small "demo" application for zApp showing how to read IMAP email and send email messages.
2004 was also the year of web site improvements. In the summer of 2004 we moved the forums from the Windows NT server over to a linux server and started using PHPBB instead of the Snitz forum software. This was the beginning of the end for the NT server. In October, the NT server was hacked and destroyed and we moved the entire site to a new hosting company (Wolfpaw.com) and to linux servers. We brought up the MX Portal software to control the overall site and to help make the site easier to edit and maintain. A Blog module was added for my own ranting to keep the forums a bit more professional. I also put a great deal of effort into the online knowledge base as a repository for zMUD and zApp documentation. The overall header and look/feel of the site was updated and brought the Zuggsoft site into the modern age.
So, while the development of eMobius grew in scope, 2004 went pretty much as planned and as I announced in last year's letter.
In terms of sales, the current number of registered users are:
53,600 for zMUD, 8,300 for AC Explorer/zExplorer, 540 for zMapper, and about 30 for zApp. As you can see, zMUD continues to be the main supporter for Zugg Software.
What's coming in 2005?
The main focus of 2005 will continue to be the zApp and eMobius projects. I am focusing work on zApp towards what is needed to get the eMobius email client completed.
This will be a real transition year for Zugg Software. By the end of the year, I expect eMobius sales to exceed zMUD sales for the first time.
We've hired Callahan Enterprises (www.drff.com) as our marketing partner for zApp and eMobius. Mike Callahan, also known as "Dr. File Finder" has been marketing Shareware since the 1980s and is considered one of the leaders of the Shareware business. The annual Shareware Industry Conference will be held in Denver this summer, just an hour or so from my home. I plan to have the first beta version of eMobius ready in time for this conference and will be putting considerable effort into marketing eMobius over the course of the coming year.
I will also be continuing the improvements of the web site on our new Wolfpaw.com linux server. Rough edges such as site searching will be improved, and the site will continue to evolve to meet the needs of a much larger user community.
During the past few months, I have received a few email messages asking about the future of the other Zugg Software products. While the focus of the coming year will be on the new zApp and eMobius products, the old products are not being completely forgotten. Here is a quick run-down:
- Until eMobius is finished, zMUD remains our flagship product and it will certainly not be neglected completely. In fact, zMUD has much to gain from the work being done on zApp. zMUD is a great example of "user customizable software". But zMUD was not written using a generic framework like zApp provides. While converting zMUD to a zApp application is probably too big of a project to consider at this point, much of the zApp technology can be used in zMUD. In particular, features like as-you-type spellchecking and an improved scripting engine are good possibilities. So zMUD is still considered an active project, and while you might not see a new version during 2005, it is still a project that I plan to continue to improve.
- AC Explorer/zExplorer
- As MMORPGs continue to improve, the need for zExplorer has been decreasing. The mapping system used in World of Warcraft (WoW), for example, is far better than we have seen in earlier games such as Asheron's Call. I have taken a step back on the development of zExplorer because I have been burned twice now (Star Wars Galaxies, Horizones) putting time into supporting games that end up not having a very large following. While it looks like WoW is going to be extremely successful, and has built-in support for various plugins, I am not announcing any new game support for the moment. AC Explorer was originally written because there was a huge need for it in playing Asheron's Call. This kind of need doesn't yet exist for WoW. So for now, I'm not planning any updates for zExplorer.
- As I mentioned in last year's letter, zMapper is basically on hold until eMobius is finished. As you can see from the sales, there just isn't enough sales for zMapper to fund much development. However, zMapper still remains as one of my personally favorite projects. I really enjoy map programs and want to continue working on zMapper someday when I can afford to. But in 2005 I need to remain focused on eMobius and make the business transition to eMobius so that Zugg Software can stay in business for the long term.
So, to summarize, 2005 will be a real transition year for Zugg Software and will see the emergence of eMobius as our major product. We will be promoting the concept of user-customizable software and will be showing more demonstrations of the kinds of new applications that can be written using zApp.
Finally, I'd like to thank my wife, Chiara, for her continued love and support for these new projects. As a technical writer, she will be more involved with eMobius than ever before. I'd also like to thank the Gurus who continue to support Zugg Software and to help other zMUD users in the Discussion Forums. I continue to be amazed at the support I get from long-time Zugg Software customers and hope that I can continue to provide the kind of quality service and software that you have come to expect as we move into these new products.
New Year's letter from 2004
New Year's letter from 2003
New Year's letter from 2002
New Year's letter from 2001
New Year's letter from 1999
New Year's letter from 1998
Survey results from 1999